The philosopher Ferrater Mora put forward the ontological thesis that to be real is equivalent to being susceptible to being ceasable, and thus “cessation” or “ceasing to be” would be the ontological measure of existing entities as real. There would be three ways of “ceasing to be”: for matter (inorganic world) means “cessation” a “decay of structures”, for living beings “perishing”, and for humans “dying” . From an anthropological perspective, “dying” is a “suffering of death” , which leads in the first-person perspective to an awareness of the certainty of a personal finiteness, and in the third-person perspective to a witnessing of the dying of others, in particular of one’s nearest, as well as to a culturally anchored treatment of the deceased and ritual expressions dealing with death; and finally, in the second-person perspective, “the dying for someone” for an other , the symbolic co-dying with one’s nearest , and the granting of a “transient eternity” . In considering these perspectives, five denotations of the term “death” were drawn up and grounded: “death” as mortality, as the principle of annihilation, as the process of dying, as the boundary of being or its transition, and as the state of “being dead”, metaphysically meant as “non-being” or “nothing” .
The dialectic of death-in-life (mortality) and life-in-death (dealing with mortal remains, appreciation of the deceased in affection, in memories, and in rituals) was aptly formulated by Paul Ludwig Landsberg as “presence of the absent” and “absence of the present” . Taking death “seriously” (as philosophically proposed since Kierkegaard’s “decisiveness of death” and “earnestness”)  can lead to an enrichment of life, for example through relativization, prioritization, and practice in reflective attitudes.
Based on the concept of Daseinsverabschiedung, a theory of “Anticipated Farewell to Existence” was introduced as a personal task of a panoptic examination of one’s own death, of the lived and unlived, as well as of the remaining life on the basis of fundamental dimensions of human existence. The deeper sense of “farewell” was drawn up by Kübler-Ross as a personal leave-taking from life . These grounding dimensions, based on a fundamental ability to symbolize, are the following: selfhood, interpersonality, temporality, corporeality, worldliness, and transcendence . In analogy, dimensions of the confrontation with the anticipated farewell to existence were also suggested; two factors that were largely regarded as complementary were assigned to each dimension: the dimension of self-transcendence (factors: permanence and metaphysical rise); the expiration of the time of existence (conclusion and farewell); altruistic preoccupation (bequest and charity); reconciliation with one’s own existence (fulfilment of existence and harmony); struggle for acceptance (resistance and acceptance); wounded physical integrity (physical disability and corporeality as presence) .
These dimensions are generated from a theoretical approach and regarded as fundamental for human beings; thus, dimensions drawn up priori cannot be further reduced. The hypothesis underlying this investigation is the empirical translatability of this model into psychology, when one’s own death appears to be necessary and unavoidable. This translation resulted in a questionnaire that was used in the empirical investigation of the real confrontation with the death of dying people.
Assumptions of Daseinsverabschiedung theory
The philosophical-anthropological construct tested is based on fundamental dimensions of being human. Human phenomena are grounded in the interconnection between these fundamental dimensions and account for personal existence. From an existential perspective, an inductive position is taken in so far as individual life configures itself into an existence by constructing categories of meaning on the basis of freedom, radical exposure to life, and responsibility for personal meaning; this expresses general human categories of meaning, but these arise from the particular existence with its empirical condition of being-in-the-world and of being-with-(relevant)-others.
The present study assumes that the seven underlying fundamental dimensions of human beings can be translated into specific fundamental dimensions that are activated in the confrontation with death. The fundamental dimensions of humans are the ability to symbolize as fundamental for all other dimensions, i.e. for ipseity-selfhood, interpersonality, temporality, corporeality, worldliness, and transcendence. Each of these becomes transformed for the human phenomenon of the confrontation with death in “struggle for acceptance” (for “ipseity/identity”), “reconciliation with one’s own existence” (for “worldliness”), “wounded physical integrity” (for “corporeality”), “expiration of the time of existence” (for “temporality”), “altruistic preoccupation” (for “interpersonality”), and “self-transcendence” (for “ability to transcend”). These dimensions have already been defined and justified in depth .
The construct “Anticipatory Farewell to Existence” is basically philosophical-anthropological since it is intrinsically congruent with the analytical structure of a human being, who has not only a solid being but also modalities of being, which are synthetically constituted in the context of the real human condition. Therefore, the question arises as to whether the abstract construct could be translated into an empirical model that could find practical application and ethical justification in caring interventions, for example in caring for the dying.
The following assumptions are formulated for this postulated translatability from the analytical (a priori) into the synthetic (empirical) structure of human beings:
1. The assumption that the stated dimensions are actually relevant in the personal confrontation with death because they result from an activation of fundamental issues by awareness of death as unavoidable when facing a mortal disease.
2. The assumption that the dimensions are not reducible among them but represent different fundamental aspects of humans dealing with their own death.
3. The assumption that there are individuals who tend to confront death strongly along the dimensions outlined and individuals who tend to confront it less so.
4. The higher the scores for factors and dimensions, the stronger the confrontation with fundamental issues facing one’s own death, but also the firmer the recognition of one’s own finiteness.
Dimensions of “Anticipated Farewell to existence”
The generativity of the dimensions is systematically applied, as shown in Fig. 1. The six dimensions proposed and their respective two-factor structures are presented in Supplementary Table 1 and are defined as follows :
The dimension of the “expiration of the time of existence” is aimed at the realization that by its nature one’s own existence comes to an unavoidable cessation. This awareness of own cessation-to-be may initiate a process of self-distancing (“farewell”) and also acceptance (“conclusion”).
The dimension of “reconciliation with one’s own existence” aims for an emotional balance that attempts to bring the lived and the unlived to congruence in a personal sense of coherence. This balance is not arithmetical. Rather, it reflects the degree of life realization (“fulfilment of existence”) and the perceived extent of coherence (“harmony”).
The dimension of “struggle for acceptance” is not meant teleologically but as an open process that expresses the real dissension and existential contradictions that arise as existence in the face of the inevitable own death. This state of foreseeable, inescapable cessation of being sets in motion an ambivalence in the deep layers of our existence that moves to varying degrees between an attitude of “acceptance” and “resistance”. These are the only factors within a dimension that are not complementary but opposite. “Resistance” means that despite the awareness of one’s own finiteness, an emotional reaction of defensiveness and reluctance arises when facing death. “Acceptance” means the degree of assumption of the unavoidable finiteness and the lived as well as the unlived life from an evaluative biographical retrospect.
From a medical-anthropological point of view, the dimension of “wounded physical integrity” means the inclusion of embodiment in this theoretical construct, because it is in a state of irreversible decay and leads to dependence. This body-related condition is regarded as essential for the examination of the dying process beyond pain and functional disorders. Two aspects are considered in this dimension: the biological body (“physical disability”) and the experienced body as interacting closely with and helping people (“corporeality as presence”).
The dimension of “altruistic preoccupation” means that the process of Daseinsverabschiedung (farewell to existence) implies the inclusion of the compassionate. Every self is existentially interwoven with others with whom there is a deeper emotional bond. Thus, farewell to existence must consider relevant others in a double sense: others as bearers of traces of one’s own existence (“bequest”) and others as addressees of the efforts to relieve them emotionally through an ego-decentred attitude (“charity”).
The dimension “self-transcendence” means the reflective detachment from painful circumstances at the end of life in the certainty of one’s own death. If transcendence as self-distancing occurs, it will be gradual. The factor “permanence” means the striving for, or the disregard of, a spiritual or material memory by others who were possibly earlier addressees of one’s own working, loving, and living. The factor “metaphysical rise” means the conviction or rejection that one’s own existence in the world could possibly change into another way of being (not only in the religious sense) and thus the essence of being experiences a continuation.